Both temporary and chronic health issues can make it more difficult to participate in day-to-day activities at home, school, work, or the gym. Occupational therapy is a type of treatment that helps people adapt to these challenges and learn new ways to perform tasks. Keep reading to learn how occupational therapy works and what role cold therapy can play.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a type of rehabilitation that helps people adapt to health-related challenges and perform better in their day-to-day life. It could be used to help people relearn how to perform familiar tasks while they’re recovering from an illness or a sports injury, or to help people with disabilities or chronic conditions learn new ways to complete activities.
Occupational therapy is performed by occupational therapists, also known as OTs. In the United States, these healthcare professionals are required to have a degree in occupational therapy and pass the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy exam. This training allows them to help patients overcome barriers to completing day-to-day tasks.
OTs work in a variety of settings. You might receive occupational therapy in a hospital, rehabilitation center, or private practice office. This therapy can also be provided at home.
How Is It Different From Physical Therapy?
Both occupational therapy and physical therapy are rehabilitative treatments that aim to help people improve or maintain their ability to function. However, there are some key differences between the two therapies.
Physical therapy relies on strengthening and flexibility exercises to treat movement problems. It could be used to help people manage pain, improve their functioning, or recover from an accident, sports injury, or surgery.
Occupational therapy focuses on helping people improve their ability to perform day-to-day tasks. It could be used to help people relearn how to perform tasks or learn new ways to complete activities. Occupational therapy could be provided alongside physical therapy or on its own, depending on your health needs.
How Does Occupational Therapy Help?
Occupational therapists assess your needs and determine the challenges you face when completing day-to-day tasks at home or work. Next, they create a therapy plan to help you overcome these hurdles. Depending on your needs and goals, occupational therapists could recommend interventions such as:
- Purposeful activities. OTs may help you practice completing daily activities you want to improve, such as slicing vegetables, tying your shoes, or catching and throwing a ball.
- Use of physical agents. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) supports the use of heat, cold, and water in treatment plans. This could include cold packs and cold water immersion.
- New ways to complete activities. OTs may suggest workarounds for challenging activities. For example, if you’ve injured yourself at the gym, they may suggest new ways to get dressed, prepare meals, or participate in sports as you’re healing.
- Environmental adaptations. Occupational therapy could involve making your home or workplace more accessible. OTs may recommend a variety of changes to help you stay comfortable, support recovery, and prevent injuries, such as ramps, grab rails, standing desks, or other modifications.
- Assistive devices. AOTA notes that a key part of an OT’s role is recommending devices that can improve a person’s functioning. This could include wheelchairs, speech-to-text software, or even adaptive equipment for your sport.
- Coping strategies. OTs may help people develop strategies to manage the stresses of living with a chronic condition.
Who Can Benefit From Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy could benefit people of any age who have difficulty completing daily tasks due to a health condition. As the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care notes, this could include people with:
- Chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Parkinson’s disease.
- Disabilities, such as paralysis or amputations.
- Injuries, including sports injuries such as broken bones or post-surgery.
- Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety.
How Can Cold Therapy Complement Occupational Therapy?
Cold therapy may play a key role in an occupational therapy treatment plan. Cold application can help reduce pain, allowing you to more comfortably participate in your occupational therapy activities, AOTA explains. Scientific studies support this use of cold therapy.
A study published in Rehabilitation examined cold therapy as a complementary therapy for women receiving rehabilitation for inflammatory rheumatoid diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The patients reported significant decreases in pain levels, which made it easier to participate in intensive occupational therapy.
Cold therapy doesn’t have to be limited to occupational therapy sessions. You may choose to add cold water immersion to your at-home rehabilitation routine. In addition to helping reduce the pain, taking a cold plunge can help reduce inflammation and improve your mood. Be sure to talk to your OT before adding cold therapy or any other complementary therapy to your routine.
Try Cold Therapy At Home With Ice Barrel
Ice Barrel is an easy way to introduce cold therapy to your daily rehabilitation routine if your doctor or occupational therapist gives you the go-ahead. Its upright design allows you to sit comfortably and relax your mind and body after a hard occupational therapy session (or a hard workout at the gym, when you return to your regular routine). Simply fill the Ice Barrel with water and ice and take a refreshing cold plunge.
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